Friday 1 March 2024

Neighbours by Rob Molan, dry sherry

David will sort it out when he drives up tomorrow to visit. I’ve given up trying to reason with June but she’ll have to listen to him.

Yesterday’s exchange was typical.

‘I need to have a snooze in the afternoon, otherwise I’m not myself.’ Even she must know a woman of my age needs her rest. ‘But I can’t get a wink if your kids are playing outside my bedroom window shouting and screaming.’ I’d been up from six in the morning and was dropping on my feet. I’ve woken up early every day since I lost my hubby.

The brassy mare glared at me. I’m sure she’s had botox injected into those bright red lips.

‘They have to get out of the flat and burn off energy, Kathy. I suppose you kept your son cooped up in the school holidays?’ The cheek of her. We usually sent David to a summer school to help develop his mind.

‘How will I hear my mobile if my son calls?’

She shrugged her shoulders.

‘I’m sure he’d call again.’ Did she think David had a lot of free time on his hands?

He’s a man of authority and she’ll not find it hard dismiss him when he speaks to her. It’s a pity he lives so far away.


I hate getting bad news in the morning. David has texted to say he won’t be travelling up now until next weekend. I know he has a strong sense of public duty and it’s hard for him to get away but I need him here.

I make myself a strong cup of coffee and settle down to watch a movie to try and take my mind off things. But the opening titles are just ending when I hear her shouting at the kids through the wall. As usual, her language is appalling.

‘Shut your faces you little sods and do what you’re bleeding told or else you’ll get a slap.’

I shouldn’t have to listen to this. We never spoke to David like that when he was their age.

I bang on the wall as hard I can with a shoe.

Shortly afterwards, there’s a knock on my front door. My arthritis is killing me and it takes me a minute to get there. I open up to find her on my doorstep.

‘What’s your problem?’ Her dark roots outnumber the blonde strands of her hair.

‘I can hear you in my bedroom. It’s not nice to listen to.’

‘You’re a mum and should remember what it’s like. My fella is working all the hours he can driving the cab so I’m left on my own with them most of the time.’

I raise my voice. ‘Nevertheless, I’d be grateful if you could give me some peace.’

‘Relax, they’re going out to their pals soon.’ She curls her bloated lip.

I slam the door on the impertinent bitch.  It’ll be the same tomorrow morning.

My life’s not been the same since that lot moved in. It’s a shame the nice family who lived there before had to relocate. They knew how to behave and dressed impeccably.


I used to hate it when David played his records in his bedroom. Whatever he listened to though the sound was not as bad as the racket next door.

My head is bumping and I’ve had enough. I drag myself up from the sofa, hobble across the hallway, and ring her doorbell. She doesn’t hear it above the booming sound reverberating inside and I press for a second time.

The music is turned down and I hear shouting.

‘Where’s the fire?’

The door opens. She’s wearing a ridiculously short, denim skirt and skimpy pink T shirt.

‘What is it now?’ She stinks of cigarettes.

‘The music’s too loud. You need to turn it down.’ I’m trying to be polite.

‘I like to have it on while I’m cleaning.’ She doesn’t look dressed for the task. ‘And it’s on number seven, not maximum volume.’

She’s impossible. I decide to call David that evening.

‘Darling, can’t you come up a bit earlier than you said? I urgently need your assistance.’

‘Sorry, Mum, but I’m taking on a new area tomorrow and need a few days to get my head round it. My boss is expecting early results.’

That’s the consequence of us encouraging him to aim high when he entered the world of work.


There isn’t a cloud in the sky and a nice breeze is blowing, and I decide to put my washing out. I fill the basket with items from the washing machine and limp into the garden only to find she’s hung her stuff on both of the lines reserved for the ground floor flats.

I’m not having this. I unpeg the items on one side: her smalls, kids’ things and two towels. I put them all in a neat pile on the bench and start to hang up my clothes.

‘Oi, what are you doing?’ she screeches, charging out from the block in her bare feet, wearing a revealing white bath robe. ‘How dare you touch my washing.’ She stops, puts her hands on her hips and eyeballs me.

‘I’m merely making room for my clothes on my washing line. You’ll catch your death standing there.’ I hope the neighbours are watching this.

‘If you’d waited until after lunch you’d have had both lines to yourself. I’ll not forget this in a hurry.’ She gathers up her things and flounces off.

It’s nice to get one over her.

Back inside, I find I have a text from David.

‘Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. Should arrive around noon. x’

I can’t wait to see the look on that slapper’s face when he knocks on her door. He won’t take any nonsense. I think I’ll have a glass of dry sherry this evening to put me in the mood.


‘We should be there in about half an hour provided the traffic is clear.’ I’ve been nodding on and off during the journey.

It’s ever so kind of Neil to drive me there. I couldn’t take the train with the state of my legs and you never know who you’ll end up sitting beside.

I broke down crying after the phone call. The window was open, June was in the garden, heard me and stuck her head in.

‘Are you alright, Kathy? Is there anything I can do.’ I’d never heard her speak so nicely.

‘It’s my David; he’s in hospital. He’s hurt and I’m ever so worried. But I don’t think I’ll be able to visit him.’

‘That’s awful news for any mum to get. Which hospital is he in?’

‘It’s in London.’ It might as well have been the moon as far as I was concerned.

‘Look, I’ll see if my Neil can drive you down. It’s his day off.’ She disappeared before I could say anything.

Bless him, he agreed to do it and only asked for the cost of the petrol. It’s so ever good to have kind neighbours.

‘I hope you don’t mind me asking but how did David get his injuries.’

I hesitate at first but decide I owe him a reply.

‘A witness told the police he was putting a parking ticket on a car windscreen and an altercation broke out with the owner who punched him in the face. David fell back, banged his head and was left unconscious. I pray there’s no permanent damage.’ I wish David were more diplomatic. It would stand him in good stead climbing the managerial ladder in the transport industry.

‘I’m no fan of traffic wardens for obvious reasons but there’s no cause for such violence. I hope the police catch the thug.’

My mobile rings and I fish it out of my handbag.

‘Mrs Wallace?’


‘I’m calling from North Middlesex hospital to tell you that your son, David, is doing well. There’s no long lasting damage and he’s sitting up in bed.’

‘Thank God. I’m on my way and should be there soon.’ Tears well up in my eyes.

‘See you soon then.’

I put the phone way.

‘Good news?’ asks Neil.

‘Yes! David’s going to be fine.’

‘Fantastic. He’ll be pleased to see you.’

When we pull up at the hospital entrance, Neil turns round. Despite the tattoos on his arms and the nose ring, he’s a handsome young man with deep blue eyes.

‘I’ll be parked over there,’ he says, pointing to his right. ‘Stay as long as you need to.’

‘I can’t thank you enough.’

‘And another thing. You’ll need some peace and quiet when you get back. I’ll have a quiet word with June. She’s a good girl but can be a bit boisterous at times.’

I suppose that might be a better solution. On reflection, David’s lack of tact might have made things worse.

About the author 

Rob started writing short stories during lockdown. To date, he's had a few published in anthologies produced by small publishers. He likes to experiment with different genres and styles of writing. 

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